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A federal judge in Virginia says her description of an accused Sept. 11 conspirator as unorthodox and unpredictable is accurate and does not reflect bias. She’s refusing his request to step down. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled Tuesday on the motion by Zacarias Moussaoui, who filed six legal briefs this week even though the judge has not granted his request to represent himself. While allowing Moussaoui to file pleadings, Brinkema said she won’t let him fire his court-appointed lawyers unless a mental examination determines he was competent to make that decision. Her order also denied Moussaoui’s motion to scrap the exam. Moussaoui contended the judge’s remarks were not the only reason she should recuse herself. He argued she refused to challenge the government’s refusal to allow an “open door” policy on access to documents. And he cited her employment 22 years ago at a law firm where Moussaoui’s court-appointed public defender, Frank Dunham Jr., was a supervisor. “Normally, a defendant in a criminal case pleads not guilty at arraignment,” Brinkema wrote. “As the record shows, however, at his arraignment, the defendant refused to enter any plea to the charges. Such conduct is unorthodox and suggests that the defendant’s behavior in the courtroom may be unpredictable.” Brinkema last January entered an innocent plea for Moussaoui, a French citizen charged with six conspiracy counts. He could face the death penalty if convicted. In her remarks about Moussaoui’s conduct, Brinkema did not mention his 50-minute courtroom speech last week, when the defendant said he prayed for the destruction of the United States and Israel. The judge added that her efforts to manage the trial expeditiously was not evidence of prejudice. She pointed out the court has not been asked to rule on an “open door” policy for access to government documents. Brinkema added she had no conflict of interest with the public defender, pointing out Dunham was appointed by the district court’s chief judge before the case was assigned to her. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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